Most Homeland Security R&D Dollars Spent on Administration, Not on Technology

By Eric Beidel
The Department of Homeland Security each year spends more money on administration and oversight of research-and-development programs than it does on actual R&D.
This is one of several revelations that came out of a Center for Strategic and International Studies analysis of the department’s contract spending and trends in the supporting industrial base between 2004 and 2010. Two of the think tank’s experts presented their findings July 21 in Washington, D.C.
“This is surprising,” said Guy Ben-Ari, deputy director of the CSIS defense-industrial initiatives group.
The Defense Department, by contrast, spends 14 times as much on research and development than it does on support services associated with those activities, Ben-Ari said. DHS spends on average twice as much on support than on actual research and development.
“We probably need to do more research on why that happened,” he said, noting that CSIS did not have access some classified data that would have bolstered the findings in the report.
For the purposes of CSIS’ study, “research and development” refers to basic and applied research, as well as exploratory, advanced, engineering and operational systems development. These contracts always have comprised a minor portion of total DHS spending and have been in decline since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006. That year, they added up to $1.1 billion. Last year, they totaled $400 million.
Since 2004, the biggest spikes in research and development contracts were the result of efforts by the Transportation Security Administration in 2004 and 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2006 and Customs and Border Protection in 2008. The TSA awarded contracts for basic research worth $318.5 million and $276.2 million in 2004 and 2005. Since then, though, the administration has spent less than $100 million per year on such efforts. The Coast Guard’s spending in this area remained consistent over the past seven years, according to CSIS.
While research and development “looks like a tiny part” of DHS’ contract practices, the bulk of the spending in this area consists of large individual programs spread throughout the department’s agencies, said David J. Berteau, senior adviser at CSIS and director of the defense-industrial initiatives group.
“These are often $50 million, $100 million, $150 million contracts,” he said. “These are not trivial business areas to be tracking and going after from the point of view of business. Funding like this in R&D actually provides a very rich marketing opportunity, particularly for medium-size technology businesses.”

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Homeland Security, DHS Budget, DHS Policy, Science and Technology

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